In the first part in the look into the rosters of the 2017 Arizona Fall League, we get the 2017 Glendale Desert Dogs. The Desert Dogs are made up of prospects from the organizations of the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Pittsburgh Pirates organizations.
I see Glendale as a team full of interesting talent. You have top prospects to headline the roster like Mitch Keller and Francisco Mejia, followed by a group of numerous other intriguing prospects particularly in the outfield. The Pirates have sent the most talent here, but both the Indians and Dodgers are close behind.
The Phillies have some interesting under the radar types worth following, while the crop from the talented White Sox system is a bit underwhelming with no Eloy Jimenez, Zack Collins, Jake Burger among other names as no one in their Top 30 was selected.
All ages are as of 9/1/2017.
Players on the taxi squad are represented with a * after their name. These players are only available to play certain days a week.
In my projected lineup the positions I have guys playing aren’t set in stone by any means. Since you typically see guys sharing roles and playing slightly out of position, a lineup wouldn’t be simple to project correctly- which is why my projected lineups are meant as a way to get the best lineup out there for each team.
Isaac Anderson, RHP, Dodgers, Age 24
The definition of a longshot, the Dodgers took Wichita State starter Isaac Anderson in the 40th round in 2015. Anderson has moved quickly through the minors in a starting role, reaching Double A in 2016. Anderson was very strong in the minors until his five Double A starts in 2016, which were not good to say the least. He went back there this year and really struggled there again, adding some questions to his future role. Coming into the season he had the upside of a #4 starter with his pitchability and a solid, but not overpowering four pitch mix- but his continued struggles in Double A bring that into some question now. The AFL will be his chance to make adjustments and get back on track.
Argenis Angulo, RHP, Indians, Age 23
The Indians took Venezuelan native Argenis Angulo out of tiny Ranger College in 2014 and have watched him become one of the better closers in the minor leagues this year. Spending the year in High A this year he had 15 saves with a 2.29 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He's been able to rack up strikeouts, but it's not because he's overpowering. In fact his fastball only sits in the upper 80s and he's got three other pitches. Rather he's able to get his strikeouts because his pitches have so much movement on them. Of course that may also work against him, as he's got problems with walks and there is some thought that the extreme movement on his pitches are making them harder to throw for strikes. He doesn't have the stuff to close on the big league level, but he could be a potential middle reliever if he's able to improve with his strike throwing ability.
Trevor Bettencourt, RHP, Phillies, Age 23
The Phillies 25th rounder last year out of UC Santa Barbara, Trevor Bettencourt barely pitched last year after signing. This year after 25 strong appearances in Low A he got moved up to High A and pitched even better. On the year he threw 58.2 innings with a 2.61 ERA and 0.92 WHIP to go with 77 strikeouts. He's got big stuff out of the pen and has never had a problem with strikeouts, but command was an issue in college...at least until this year when his walk rate was down to just 1.4 per nine. If he's able to sustain the uptick in command, he's got a real chance to become a setup man on the big league level.
Michael Boyle, LHP, Dodgers, Age 23
A 13th rounder from Radford in 2015, the Dodgers finally moved Michael Boyle from the rotation this year in High A. Boyle still made seven starts, but made 12 relief appearances after starting 34 of 41 career games prior to this year. Boyle's numbers this year weren't great, but in relief they were quite respectable. He's probably more of a long reliever or potentially a lefty specialist longterm, but this season made it clear that his home is in the pen.
Sean Brady, LHP, Indians, Age 23
A fifth round pick back in 2013, Sean Brady has slowly progressed through the minors. Brady hasn't been further than High A yet and injuries limited him to 46.2 innings this season. Don't let that fool you into thinking he's not a prospect. He may need to end up moving to the pen as he's undersized and still not pitched in the upper minors, but he's a lefty who throws strikes and has stuff that can get batters out. If he is able to remain a starter, he's probably more of a back of the rotation guy.
JT Brubaker, RHP, Pirates, Age 23
JT Brubaker was a sixth rounder out of Akron in 2015 and has moved up as far as spending the entire 2017 season in Double A as a starter. Brubaker's numbers weren't great but he did a solid job of pitching despite being a little more hittable than you would like. Brubaker has a four pitch mix and despite a fastball up to 95 he won't overpower hitters. He'll get his share of strikeouts, but is more of a pitch to contact type. If he's able to make some adjustments then he could be a backend starter for the Pirates, otherwise he's looking at being more of a long reliever/swing man type of pitcher.
Garrett Cleavinger, LHP, Phillies, Age 23
Baltimore took Garrett Cleavinger out of Oregon in the third round back in 2015, and after seeing him rise as high as Double A they dealt him to the Phillies in return for Jeremy Hellickson. Cleavinger had no problems converting from starting to relief and all the way through the minors until this season. He really struggled in both Double A stops with a 6.00 ERA and 1.65 WHIP. He has very good stuff from the left side and has always been successful with a high strikeout rate, but his command is an issue. The Phillies are hoping he can get his command issues straightened out as a live armed lefty with the ability to go multiple innings.
Dylan Covey, RHP, White Sox, Age 26
You may remember Dylan Covey as the Brewers 14th overall pick in 2010. The kid who was found to be a diabetic and chose the University of San Diego over signing. Oakland took him in the fourth round in 2013 and he was an A until the White Sox grabbed him in the Rule 5 draft this past winter. He’s made nine starts and six relief appearances, throwing 54.2 innings with a 7.90 ERA and 1.72 WHIP, though he has been better in 9.2 September innings. Covey is probably more of a back of the rotation guy or more likely a swingman out of the pen, but he’s shown enough that the Sox were willing to keep him around.
Luke Eubank, RHP, Indians, Age 23
Originally a 15th round pick in 2014 Luke Eubank got a late start to this season as he was coming back from injury. That limited him to just 22 innings on the year, but what a 22 innings they were as he recorded a 0.82 ERA and 0.96 WHIP mostly in High A. Eubank is coming here to make up his innings after he initially was hurt in 2016 and missed about a year. He may not be a late inning relief prospect, but he could possibly be a seventh inning reliever who gets on the fast track to the big leagues next year as he'll pitch his first full season since 2015.
Matt Foster, RHP, White Sox, Age 22
A 20th round pick out of the University of Alabama last year, Matt Foster has been unhittable to start his pro career. Foster is a pure reliever who split the year between Low A and High A, and in his 57.1 career innings he has a 1.73 ERA and 0.70 WHIP. Sure he's an advanced SEC guy and he hasn't reached the upper minors for a real test yet, but you can't ask for a better performance out of any pitcher. He's been an excellent closer in the minors and could be a late inning relief guy in the big leagues with a mid 90s fastball and sharp slider. He's coming here to help make up for some lost innings, as he retired briefly at the start of the season due to some personal issues and didn't pitch until late June.
Jace Fry, LHP, White Sox, Age 24
The White Sox used their third rounder in 2014 on Oregon State lefty Jace Fry. They took him and let him start in 2015, but he missed 2016 with Tommy John surgery and returned as a reliever this year. Fry was solid in Double A this year, though he was still finding his command after surgery. Still he made it to the big leagues for a short trial. Fry has a fastball, cutter, curve, and a change that he doesn't use much out of the pen, but it's not out of the question the Sox re-introduce him to the rotation next year. If he stays in the pen, he has a future as a potential seventh inning guy.
Elniery Garcia, LHP, Phillies, Age 22
Elniery Garcia was limited to seven starts this year, five in Double A and the other two in the Gulf Coast League, after an 80 game PED suspension to start the year. Garcia went 2-1 with a 1.47 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, which is very impressive considering he struck out 13 and walked 19 in 30.2 innings. Garcia never had his command this year, though that may have been a part of his late start. Going into the year he had a plus fastball but relied on a mostly average four pitch mix- something that is now a question because of the suspicion brought by the PED suspension. I don’t have enough information on Garcia’s 2017 stuff to make a definitive statement on his present stuff.
JD Hammer, RHP, Phillies, Age 23
One of the best names in the league the Rockies drafted JD Hammer in the 24th round last year. After dominating hitter friendly Asheville as a reliever, the former college starter was promoted. He struggled in High A, but it was the California League, before being traded to the Phillies in the Pat Neshek deal and dominating once again- this time in the Florida State League. Combined he appeared in 48 games going 57.2 innings with 13 saves as he recorded a 1.87 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 85 strikeouts. Hammer has a huge fastball, between plus and double plus with a slider that’s late break makes it a swing and miss pitch. Hammer is a guy who could be a late inning reliever with the stuff he’s shown in 2017.
Taylor Hearn, LHP, Pirates, Age 23
Taylor Hearn was a fifth round pick by the Nationals in 2015 who was traded to the Pirates last year as part of the Mark Melancon deal. Hearn, who possesses a plus plus fastball capable of hitting nearly 100 MPH, is a starter now but projects as a late inning reliever due to issues with command and a lack of a third pitch- along with needing his slider to be more consistent. Still the upside in the pen is huge, and if he’s somehow able to make enough progress it’s not out of the question that he could start. This year he went 4-6 with a 4.03 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 109 strikeouts to 37 walks in 89.2 innings- all but two in High A.
Mitch Keller, RHP, Pirates, Age 21
Easily the top pitching prospect to be sent to the Arizona Fall League this year, the Pirates are sending Mitch Keller to get some extra innings after he missed a couple of weeks due to a minor injury. Keller made it to Double A for his final six starts of the season(not counting a pair of excellent playoff starts) this year while throwing a total of 116 innings with a 3.03 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. In addition to getting some extra innings under his belt Keller is going to need to improve upon the way he works his lightly used changeup into his arsenal. You can read more about him in my in person evaluation from a late season start.
Leandro Linares, RHP, Indians, Age 23
The Indians signed Cuban reliever Leandro Linares a few years ago and have watched him move up the chain quickly. He struggled in his first two years, in 2014 and 2015, but he was extremely dominant in 2016. This year he was okay in High A and then up and down in Double A, as the command issues from 14/15 came back into the picture this year. With a mid 90s fastball and plus curve he’s got late inning relief potential, but clearly the command will determine if he’s truly capable of that role.
Andrew Sopko, RHP, Dodgers, Age 23
The Dodgers seventh round pick in 2015 out of Gonzaga, Andrew Sopko has spent the full 2017 season in Double A as a starter. Sopko went 5-7 with a 4.13 ERA and 1.42 WHIP as he battled command issues that hadn’t really come into play earlier in his pro career. He’s got a mix of pitchability with a decent fastball, solid average slider, and average change but he’s a guy who will likely need to move to the pen to have value at the big league level due to the need for his stuff to play up in shorter stints. He’s a guy that may project best in a long reliever in LA.
Shea Spitzbarth, RHP, Dodgers, Age 22
The Dodgers signed Shea Spitzbarth out of tiny Molloy College in New York in 2015 as an undrafted free agent and he’s done nothing but succeed. He went there because he was a cold weather arm and didn’t have the grades to play D1, so he chose to stay home. He spent the bulk of this year in Double A and in his pro career he’s got a 2.58 ERA and 1.17 WHIP with an 11.5 K/9 rate. He’s got a mid 90s fastball and promising curve, helping him to open eyes in Dodgers spring training. The team thinks he can be a late inning reliever and he’s got some closing experience in the minors.
Brandon Waddell, LHP, Pirates, Age 23
Former University of Virginia star Brandon Waddell was a fifth round pick by the Pirates in 2015. The lefty doesn’t have any above average pitches, limiting him to a back of the rotation profile, but he’s got three average pitches and above average command to help him get ground balls in bunches. He made it to Double A this year but injury limited him to just 78 innings, including 12 on his rehab assignment. Overall he went 5-3 with a 3.12 ERA and 1.23 WHIP to go with 71 strikeouts. Waddell will look to get back some of the innings he missed and try to establish himself as a guy in the picture for a future spot in the Pirates rotation.
Connor Walsh, RHP, White Sox, Age 24
A 12th round pick out of Cincinnati in 2014, Connor Walsh is a reliever who has reached Triple A this season. Walsh, who is capable of going multiple innings. He’s a hard thrower who has also shown a promising curve and does a good job of limiting hard contact, but walks can be an issue for him.
Edgar Cabral, C, Phillies, Age 21
The Phillies 11th round pick in 2015 out of a California JUCO, Edgar Cabral has a strong, compact body at 5’11" and 210 pounds. Injuries limited him as a pro and this year was his first extended playing time as he got 91 games between Low A and High A. Cabral hit .260/.332/.357 with 17 doubles and four homers. He’s not so much an offensive weapon as he is a guy who can hit enough to be a backup when you combine in his defense. His defense is the real asset as he threw out nearly half of the guys who tried to steal on him this year, going 44 for 91 in throwing runners out.
Will Smith, C, Dodgers, Age 22
The Dodgers used their 2016 first round pick on Louisville catcher Will Smith, a fast rising player late in the draft process. Smith is much more athletic than most catchers, and that translates to his defense and running ability. He’s also capable with the bat, as he played all but one of his 73 games in High A and hit .231/.358/.446 with 15 doubles, three triples, 11 homers, and seven steals. Smith is a very interesting catcher who can defend, run, get on base, and even show a little pop.
Seby Zavala, C, White Sox, Age 24
The White Sox 12th round pick out of San Diego State in 2015, Seby Zavala has been a bit of a surprise with his bat. He had a big showing in the Arizona League in 2015, posting a 1.029 OPS in 35 games. He moved to Low A last year and while his numbers were far off from what he did back in 2015, he still posted respectable totals for a catcher with a .711 OPS. Fast forward to this year when he started out repeating Low A and posted a .840 OPS, before moving to High A and posting a mark of .861 in slightly more time than he saw in Low A. Overall this year he hit .282/.353/.499 with 21 doubles and 21 homers. His defense is adequate, which is in spite of a throwing arm that grades slightly below average after having Tommy John surgery back in college. Zavala projects as a backup catcher with some power, on base ability, and defense- though he’s not a guy I would write off is incapable of being something more than that. It’s also worth noting that his age is a little misleading, as he only turned 24 at the end of August. That means he will basically spend all of his 2018 season at the age of 24.
Bobby Bradley, 1B, Indians, Age 21
The Indians third round pick from 2014 Bobby Bradley has hit a total of 79 homers over his last three seasons, as he’s moved through full season ball through Double A. That’s an average of 26 homers a per season with none of them being less than 23 homers(his 2017 AA total). He’s also a guy willing to take a walk, as he’s drawn at least 55 in every season. Really the only questions with him are that he’s a first base prospect only and that he strikes out often- though after averaging over a 30% strikeout rate in both 2015 and 2016, he’s significantly dropped it this season down to 22.7%. I can picture Bradley’s bat being an asset to the Indians as soon as late 2018.
Zach Green, 3B/1B, Phillies, Age 23
The Phillies took Zach Green in the third round all the way back in 2012 as a bat with some power potential, but Green hasn’t worked out as hoped thus far. After a very strong showing in the New York/Penn League back in 2013, he’s stalled out in full season ball. He was okay in Low A in 2014, battled injury in High A in 2015, then showed some flashes in High A last year. Injuries then came back into the picture this year and he never really got going in his third attempt at High A, then in his Double A debut. Green still has some power in that bat but after posting a 20/110 walk/strikeout rate in 2016 and then a 13/75 rate this year, he’s going to really need to improve in that area to let his power play in the upper minors and of course the big leagues.
Kevin Kramer, 2B, Pirates, Age 23
The Pirates used a 2015 second round pick on UCLA middle infielder Kevin Kramer and have moved him to second base full time. Kramer had solid seasons in his first two years, but enjoyed a breakout in Double A this year even though injuries hit. Overall in 53 games with Altoona of the Eastern League he hit .297/.380/.500 with 17 doubles, three triples, and six homers. The six homers this year came after he hit just four in 778 plate appearances between his first two seasons. He was also 7-9 in stolen bases, one year after going a miserable 3-12. Kramer is probabably not as good as his 2017 line indicates, but he has the potential to be a solid every day option for Pittsburgh and could be ready by the end of the 2018 season.
Tyler Krieger, 2B, Indians, Age 23
The Indians used their fourth rounder on Clemson infielder Tyler Krieger in 2015. He didn’t play in 2015 before having a strong debut in 2016 split between Low A and High A. Krieger made the move to Double A for 2017 and hit .225/.303/.337 with 25 doubles, six homers, and 12 steals. Krieger projects as a guy who could become a second division type of starter or a nice bench piece, as he doesn’t really stand out in any area but also doesn’t have any glaring holes in his skill set.
Danny Mendick, INF, White Sox, Age 23
The White Sox grabbed UMass Lowell infielder Danny Mendick in the 22nd round back in 2015 and have quietly watched him move up to Double A. Mendick never really stood out in any stop in the minors until High A this year, when he hit .289/.373/.468 with 18 doubles, four triples, seven homers, and 11 steals in 84 games. With the exception of doubles every single number he posted in High A was a new career high for him, and his doubles total was only four off his career high. Then he moved up to Double A and really struggled in 41 games, hitting just .197/.280/.293. He’s going to need to make some adjustments to succeed in the upper minors, but he’s an over-achiever type who can’t be counted out. Mendick plays all around the infield- everywhere but first, and projects as a potential utility guy at the big league level if he’s able to make those adjustments.
Francisco Mejia, C/3B, Indians, Age 21
One of the five biggest storylines in the AFL is top prospect Francisco Mejia. Mejia is the Tribe’s top prospect and was just starting out at third base prior to making his big league debut in September. The AFL should be a chance for him to get some real work in at third base, a spot he’s played in just one game in his entire career thus far. While his defensive home is going to be the storyline, it’s his bat that has people most intrigued after he hit an absurd .342 as a catcher last year. He followed that up by moving to Double A this year and hit .297/.346/.490 with 21 doubles, 14 homers, and even seven steals. He’s a special prospect regardless of where he plays longterm.
Cole Tucker, SS, Pirates, Age 21
The Pirates surprised many when they used their first round pick in 2014 on Cole Tucker, as he had been expected to be drafted a couple of rounds later. The prep shortstop from Arizona showed flashes in 2014 and 2015 before an announcement that he was expected to miss most to all of 2016 with a fairly significant shoulder surgery. But that didn’t happen as he came back much sooner than expected allowing him to play 80 games. While he was back sooner than expected his numbers did struggle as the shoulder had to be slowing him. He was a guy I was closely watching this spring to see if he could rebound, and he did that in a big way moving from High A to eventually Double A as he hit .275/.358/.408 with 19 doubles, 11 triples, six homers, and an impressive 47 steals. Tucker still needs to see his power take a slight step forward and prove that the shoulder won’t force him to move off short, but the AFL could give him that opportunity.
Matt Beaty, OF, Dodgers, Age 24
The Dodgers 12th round pick in 2015 out of Belmont, Matt Beaty has been a surprisingly productive hitter. This year in Double A Beaty hit .326/.378/.505 with 31 doubles and 15 homers. He’s a contact oriented hitter with an approach that will lead to gap power, and he offers defensive versatility with the ability to play both corner infield positions as well as the outfield. Beaty could be a real bench asset for a team like the Dodgers with a skill set like that.
Yusniel Diaz, OF, Dodgers, Age 20
The Dodgers spent big to bring the toolsy young Cuban in after the 2015 season, and he struggled with performance and injury last year. He made some mechanical changes this year and the results were able to be seen, as he was promoted to Double A this year after solid numbers in High A. Between the two levels he hit .292/.354/.433 with 23 doubles, 11 homers, and nine steals. Diaz is a four and a half tool center fielder, with his power being the tool which is below average but playable. Diaz could build upon his late season momentum in the AFL.
Logan Hill, OF, Pirates, Age 24
A 25th round pick from Troy University in 2015, Hill has surpassed expectations so far as a pro. He had a big start in the New York/Penn League in 2015, then a solid 2016 between Low A and High A, before a big 2017 spent mostly in High A and then some in Double A. In 93 games this year he has hit .269/.359/.491 with 19 doubles and 18 homers. Hill is an interesting prospect as he’s seen his power start to come on while making strides with his plate discipline- something that was well below average, but has progressed to the point he walked 14 times to his 21 strikeouts in his 22 Double A games.
DJ Peters*, OF, Dodgers, Age 21
The Dodgers took then JUCO sophomore DJ Peters in the fourth round in 2016, making it the third straight year he was drafted. All he’s done since signing is hit, and this year in High A- with a little California League help, he hit .276/.372/.514 with 29 doubles, five triples, and 27 homers. The numbers are actually down in comparison to his 2016 Pioneer League totals of .351/.437/.615. He’s a huge kid at 6’6" and 225 pounds, and does have some holes in his swing as most kids that size do- but he hits the ball hard, draws walks, and moves well for his size. He projects as a right fielder longterm if he can clean up his defense a little. The AFL is big for him and his prospect status as a good showing with the hit tool will boost his stock.
Tito Polo, OF, White Sox, Age 23
One of the under the radar power and speed guys in the minors, Tito Polo was traded twice in the last year. The Colombian outfielder was sent by the Pirates to the Yankees in 2016 as part of the Ivan Nova deal, the the Yankees included him in the package to the White Sox for Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle. Polo has stolen 46, 37, and 34 bases in the last three years. After hitting 20 doubles, two triples, and three triples in Low A in 2015, he saw his power surge in 2016 when he hit 17 doubles, three triples, and 16 homers between Low A and High A. This year between High A and Double A he hit 18 doubles, nine triples, and five homers while posting a triple slash of .301/.363/.442. Polo only turned 23 at the end of August and will have a chance to prove himself against top competition in the AFL.
Cornelius Randolph, OF, Phillies, Age 20
The Phillies used their top pick in 2015(10th overall) on Cornelius Randolph, who immediately produced at the plate after signing his contract. He was slowed by injury in 2016, but showed why he was a promising young bat this year in High A. On the year he hit .250/.338/.402 with 18 doubles, five triples, 13 homers, and seven steals in the pitching friendly Florida State League. Randolph is a hit over power guy and he’s limited to left field defensively, so he will need to really hit to provide much value- but he’s a guy with the potential to do that.
Ka'ai Tom*, OF, Indians, Age 23
Ka’ai Tom was a fifth round pick out of Kentucky in 2015. The Hawaiian native is a smaller guy at 5’9" and 185 pounds, but he’s a guy who can make some contact, show some extra base pop, and run a bit. He played this year in High A after injuries took away most of his 2016 season, and hit .254/.340/.418 with 31 doubles, seven triples, 10 homers, and going 23 of 29 in stolen base attempts. Tom isn’t a guy who projects as a big league starter, but as a guy who can do a little bit of everything and plays all three outfield positions he could make a fourth outfielder at the big league level. He’s a fun player to watch, though unfortunately he’s going to be limited here because he’s a part of the taxi squad.
1.Cole Tucker, SS
2.Kevin Kramer, 2B
3.Francisco Mejia, 3B
4.Bobby Bradley, 1B
5.Yusniel Diaz, CF
6.Cornelius Randolph, LF
7.Matt Beaty, DH
8.Will Smith, C
9.Tito Polo, RF
Note that had he not been on the taxi squad I would have gone with DJ Peters in the lineup, but with him being limited he won’t be a lineup regular.
1.Mitch Keller, R
2.Brandon Waddell, L
3.Elniery Garcia, L
4.Andrew Sopko, R
5.Taylor Hearn, L
Piggyback Options: Dylan Covey, R, JT Brubaker, R, Sean Brady, L, Isaac Anderson, R
Middle Relief-Connor Walsh, Trevor Bettencourt, Argenis Angulo, Luke Eubank, Leandro Linares, Garrett Cleavinger
Long Reliever-Michael Boyle